Glenn Jones is a unique voice working in the decades-long tradition of American Primitivism. What sets him apart from the many devotees to this style is the combination of expressive playing and technical skill, most significantly his inventive use of alternate tunings and partial capos. As anyone knows who has seen him perform, Glenn is a remarkable storyteller, and his songs reflect that talent. The songs on 2013's My Garden State, are evocative and redolent, and serve as a testament to Glenn's talent for conveying a wide array of emotions, many times in one song, without saying a word.
My Garden State was written in the New Jersey home where Glenn's family moved in 1966, while he was caring for his mother who suffers from Alzheimer's. The songs and sounds on the album are reflective, but never dour or sad. My Garden State was recorded by Laura Baird in Allentown, NJ. Laura joins Glenn on the first proper song, "Across the Tappan Zee" on banjo, interweaving her plaintive melodies with Glenn's gentle picking. Laura's sister Meg, who was a founding member of Espers and plays with Laura as The Baird Sisters, also joins in on the final minutes of "Going Back to East Montgomery," an 8-minute long composition that showcases Glenn's ability to craft a long form piece that is at once expansive and immediate.
The two tracks that form the centerpiece of the album, "The Vernal Pool" and "Alcoeur Gardens" were composed spontaneously in the studio, a technique Glenn developed on tour with Damo Suzuki with his former band Cul de Sac. Where "The Vernal Pool" is exuberant, "Alcouer Gardens" is sparse and quiet, with field recordings of rain and thunder providing a bed for Glenn's guitar, emphasizing the space between the notes as much as the notes themselves. The songs on My Garden State could have been written by no one except Glenn Jones, brimming joy, sorrow, and the complex in-between that makes life worth living.